Sadly, the time has come to face the ending moments of a very competitive 2019 season in Major League Baseball. But while much of the playoff picture has already been determined, a few crucial battles are yet to conclude.
While the race for the Wildcard in the National League was involved in most of the discussions during the better part of the season, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Nationals have already locked up their spots for the NL Wildcard Game on October 1st. However, they are currently separated by a game and Milwaukee can still manage to host that matchup at Miller Park.
Meanwhile, the Brewers can even go a step further. They trail the Cardinals by just one game and the chances for a second consecutive NL Central title are as alive and well as they’ve been all year. And lastly, but also deserving of its attention, is the battle for home advantage in the AL and through all of postseason.
Last year we were treated to a last day that built up to not one but two Tiebreaker games in the NL. This Sunday promises to be even more eventful. Let’s take a look at the remaining races and a couple of possible scenarios, plus some predictions:
American League Wildcard
This one might be even better than in the NL. The Tampa Bay Rays are sitting just a game behind the Oakland Athletics at the second spot, while the Indians are two behind a place in the postseason. Cleveland was one of the hottest teams after the break but couldn’t keep pace with the teams chasing them, playing up to 30-22 record since August 1st.
The Indians also didn’t get lucky when it comes to scheduling. While the A’s, who face the punching bag Seattle, and Tampa Bay, who travels to Canada, can feel very confident that they can sweep through the weekend, the Indians visit the postseason team of the Nationals, which, in addition, is in a battle to host the NL Wildcard game.
Next up for Oakland on the mound is the top of the rotation – Mike Fiers, Tanner Roark and Brett Anderson, while Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Ryan Yarbrough will start for the Rays. Not only are the Nationals an extremely tough opponent, but it’s difficult if not impossible to foresee the A’s or the Rays losing two of their next three to give the Indians a wildcard spot. The 2016 AL Champions lost two of three to the White Sox to slip behind a postseason spot.
Therefore, changes between the two teams already occupying the two spots are also very unlikely.
Prediction: Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays make AL Wildcard, Rays at Athletics in AL Wildcard Game on Oct 2nd.
National League Central Division
The 2019 Brewers might not be the biggest of stories but if they do make a deep postseason run they will have done not only without MVP candidate Christian Yelich but, yet again, without a solid rotation.
Zach Davies was a good addition but the injury of Brandon Woodruff, who’s now back, and the absence of a good bottom part of that rotation weren’t promising signs. However, they’ve now won 22 of their last 27 games, not only punching a ticket to the Wildcard Game but also remaining in striking distance of a division crown, just a game behind the Cardinals.
St. Louis ends its regular season schedule at home against the Chicago Cubs. Joe Maddon resting his starting players and Kris Bryant being out with an ankle injury makes the series against the disappointing Cubs even easier for the Cards.
However, the Cubs will avoid Jack Flaherty but will face Dakota Hudson. Meanwhile, the Brewers might be in for a difficult visit to Coors Field to the Rockies. If the offensive action we’ve seen by the Rox at home is any indication of what’s to come this weekend, Woodruff and Davies make for a favourable situation for the visitors. The problem might be the Sunday game with Adrian Houser on the mound.
The answer is somewhere in between. If the drama holds up until Sunday, the Brewers may not reach their destination because of Houser. But their hot streak might give them an edge even in that kind of match-up and they’ll certainly make the most of any mistake by St. Louis. That might sound extreme, but we could be in for another NL Central Tiebreaker game granted that the Cardinals take two and the Brew Crew sweep.
However, the Cubs have been worse than one could think (12-16 record last 30 days) and they’ll be in resting mode so their level of difficulty could be a little overrated.
Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals win NL central by 1 game over Milwaukee Brewers
National League Wildcard
We’ve already discussed the Nationals and the Brewers series, and it’s also difficult to see a Washington sweep, even at home. A Brewers sweep and two of three for the Nationals would set up a tie for the NL wildcard, with the hosting rights for the game going, per official tiebreaker rules, to Milwaukee due to their better record in head-to-head games (4-2).
Prediction: Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers tied for NL Wildcard, Nationals at Brewers in NL Wildcard Game on Oct 1st.
Home field advantage
The Houston Astros and the New York Yankees are separated by just two games. The Astros have won 104, the Yanks have 102, while the Dodgers are in between with 103 in the chase for home field advantage through all of postseason.
The Yankees, on the other hand, visit the Rangers in the last ever series at GlobeLife Park. Mike Minor made his last start of the year so the Yankees are also in a good position but if the Astros win the next three, the Yankees kind of don’t matter.
Neither do the Dodgers, who face an even tougher opponent in the San Francisco Giants. On Sunday Rich Hill is on the mound facing Madison Bumgarner in a game that might see the Dodgers’ hopes of a sweep fade away. And that could matter if the Yankees and the Dodgers reach the World Series.
Prediction: Best team records in MLB, as follows: #1 Astros, #2 Yankees, #3 Dodgers